Oct 26, 2022
Serena Williams, Roy Choi, and Gary Sinise Provide Tips for Fueling Your Vitality
Tennis start Serena Williams talks about how she maintains her vitality at a Cigna event in Nashville

Vitality is an energy that lives inside all of us – and when it is considered, cared for, and strengthened, it can help people become the healthiest versions of themselves and fuel healthier, more engaged families, workplaces, and communities. 

That’s precisely why we developed the Evernorth Vitality Index: to fill an emerging need as people and businesses recover from the pandemic and look to improve health and well-being. Results from the study were previewed at an event in Nashville, Tenn., which featured a fireside chat between tennis great Serena Williams and Cigna Chairman and CEO David M. Cordani. Other guest speakers included Roy Choi, a world-renowned chef and activist, and actor and humanitarian Gary Sinise. Robin Roberts, co-anchor of ABC’s “Good Morning America,” hosted the event.

“Every one of us has a similar story when it comes to the pandemic. We were all under enormous stress,” said Dr. David Brailer, Cigna’s chief health officer, who took attendees through the high-level findings of our research. “This is why all of us at Cigna have taken off on this journey to learn as much as we can about how vitality affects the general population, our workforces, and the health, engagement, retention, and productivity of those workforces.”

Cigna partnered with psychologist Dr. Richard Ryan to develop the Index, which combines the leading academic scale, the Subjective Vitality Scale, with custom, validated subscales measuring one’s ability to manage eight dimensions of health: financial, physical, emotional, social, intellectual, environmental, spiritual, and occupational. We then used the index to create and conduct an online survey of 10,000 U.S. adults to better understand the state of vitality in the United States and in our workforces.

“Our opportunity here is to raise the dialogue related to vitality as a mechanism of identifying opportunities for improvement for the clients, customers, and communities we are privileged to serve each and every day,” said Cordani (right).

Researching Vitality: Key Findings

It turns out that vitality is more than an energy that can be felt, Dr. Brailer told attendees. It's also something that can be analyzed and measured.

We made some interesting discoveries through this research. For example, people with high vitality are physically stronger, mentally healthier, and have greater job satisfaction. For those with low vitality, there is a silver lining: By taking small consistent actions, vitality levels can increase over time, which means healthier and happier lives, homes, workplaces, and communities for everyone.

The research also confirmed that people in better health feel better about life. On the other hand, when people live with chronic conditions like arthritis, heart failure, or diabetes, their sense of optimism and purpose – their vitality – declines.

Simply having access to good health care improves vitality, our research found. And, when people have higher levels of vitality, their health improves. They take medications more regularly, keep appointments with clinicians, exercise more, and eat better. This is why there's a correlation between vitality and good physical and mental health.

“Now we're exploring what we can do to improve vitality,” Dr. Brailer (left) said. “For example, can we target people with low vitality and bring them coaching or behavioral interventions that help them improve vitality? Can we find solutions to the drivers of both health and vitality, like poor nutrition, housing, or transportation? This is just a preview of the work that we're doing.”  

Fireside Chat With Serena Williams

During her conversation with Cordani, Williams talked about the ways her family and social connections – her support system – were a big part of her journey as a tennis star.

“Family has always been really important to me,” she said. “We were all really close as a family, and tennis became a family sport,” she said, explaining that having her family with her on the road gave her the grit that was so essential to her success.

Williams grew up in a home where she was taught to love herself and embrace who she is as a person. “Life gives you so much pressure, but you just have to love who you are and you have to be confident in who you are,” she said.

She also spoke about the importance of prioritizing your own well-being by building the act of unplugging into your daily routine. For Williams, unwinding meant turning off her phone and other devices, as well as skipping training on days when her body told her it needed a break.

“I think it's so important to listen to your body,” she said. “Listening to yourself, not being overly hard on yourself, and accepting that it's okay to take a setback and take a day off is something everyone should do.”

And through the act of unwinding, Williams has been able to learn something new: Dance.

She likes to dance and has been learning routines over the years as a way of unplugging from tennis while staying active.

Volunteerism has also been an important aspect of Williams’ vitality journey – and she encouraged everyone in the audience to find meaningful ways to give back to their communities. She stressed that giving back isn’t only about providing financial support. “It could be lending a helpful ear for people to bounce ideas off of,” she said. “Some of the best support is just about being there and showing up.”

Tips To Fuel Your Vitality From Roy Choi and Gary Sinise

Choi and Sinise were interviewed by ABC’s Roberts – and shared tips on ways to nurture and fuel vitality levels. For Sinise, the simple pleasure of spending time with his grandchildren fuels his vitality, as does playing music and being part of a band.

Volunteerism, particularly work he does around visiting our troops, fuels his health, well-being, and vitality and brings him a great deal of joy. “There's a lot of joy in in giving back and serving,” he said. “I've found that it gives my life great purpose, and it energizes me.”

He also spoke to the importance of finding quiet time, which he does first thing in the morning while sitting at his outdoor fire pit and then while walking for a few hours.

Choi talked about how food can impact people’s vitality levels, stressing that there are communities in the United States that struggle to put food on the table. He spoke to the importance of understanding foods and the value that they can bring to one’s health, energy levels, and life in general. That’s why he spends a lot of time educating people on the relationship between food and health – something he says needs to be taught from a young age.

“We feed our kids chicken tenders and pepperoni pizzas from birth,” Choi said, adding that these types of processed foods put kids on the opposite path to health and wellness.

Choi also said that building and maintaining vitality is about giving and kindness, and the “more that we do for others, the more we fill ourselves with vitality.”

Elderly couple happy and full of vitality

Read the Report: The State of Vitality in the United States

We used the Evernorth Vitality Index to survey more than 10,000 adults across the U.S. – the largest study ever done on vitality and health.

Read the full findings